Mossberg Model 44B
PASS THE AMMUNITION AND HAND ME THE GREY POUPON
By: Rich Gardner
Let’s assume for a minute I’ve turned into a Mossberg snob. I don’t think so but snobs never do. After years of putting satisfied smiles on the faces of gun show vendors I’ve grown a little more selective. My hand no longer floats uncontrollably toward my wallet at the sight of a Mannlicher stock halfway across the hall..
At the last gun show I cruised the aisles secure in the knowledge I wouldn’t buy anything because I hadn’t brought any money. Not even my checkbook. Everything went well for the first hour. Then it happened. Across the aisle was a 44. At first I thought it was a 44US(d) because it had the multi-position swivel plate. By the time I’d elbowed everyone out of the way I could see the stock was fancier than a US.
Thirty minutes later I’d covered Mossberg history from Oscar’s birth in Sweden through the evolution of the civilian 44US in the late ‘40s when the crafty vendor said, “Since you know so much about this rifle, you really ought to buy it.” Impossible. My wallet’s flat and I don’t even know how to spell ATM. There’s a reason people like me shouldn’t have one of those demonic cards, never mind the challenge of mastering a PIN.
It was only 8-1/2 miles back to the house, where my checkbook lay cowering. When Tom offered to take a personal check I was fresh out of excuses. He wanted to put the 44B under the table but I insisted he leave it on display. If someone came along and bought it while I was gone, so much the better. Who needs another pre-war Mossberg .22?
Two hours later pieces of the 44B were spread all over the bench, except for the stock, which was hanging from the ceiling. All the hard parts looked nice. Someone drilled a hole in the guard to adjust the trigger-pull without removing it. The stock was dull with a few light scrapes. I put it through my top-secret one-hour refinishing process.
Over the past year I’ve been trying to teach myself to be a target shooter. I’m still in stage one, which means resting the rifle on a pair of small sandbags and planting targets at 30 yards. If I ever master breathing, heartbeat, acquisition and squeeze at this distance I’ll move on. At the range each Saturday morning I generally bring one serious Mossberg and one for fun. An example might be a 144LSA with a 6X scope and a 151M with peep sight. After shooting the target rifle, I’ll grab the fun-gun and go join Hal’s son Christopher at the other end of the shed and shoot at the flip-up metal targets.
Part of my serious-shooting quest involved finding the ideal ammunition. After buying a box of everything and taking copious notes I arrived at a startling conclusion: Every Mossberg rimfire I own likes Federal Champion ammo. That includes the 44B. Here, I’ll show you:
The photo says three things to me: 1) The 44B is pretty. 2) The 44B really likes Federal Champion. 3) August 26th was a happy day at the range. Okay, the targets were only 30 yards out but shooting with a 7 year-old, even Christopher, means you don’t just get in the zone and run 6 clips through the rifle one after another.
I like the 44B. It likes me. We both like the Champion ammo. Wal-Mart sells it for $0.98 a box; just 10% more than the cheapest stuff you can buy. The other bargain in my shooting universe comes from www.MyTargets.com. They offer a variety of targets at whatever it costs to print the page from your home computer. For sighting-in a scope I print their 4-squares page. During warm-up, like today, I shoot at the 5-target page. When I’m feeling cocky I slap some Birchwood-Casey adhesive-backed targets out there and throw caution to the wind. The wind was my friend on the 26th of August.
Here are the results from the following weekend:
Forgive the orange backdrop but the holes were invisible without it.
Since I bought the 44B I’ve been taking a second target rifle, (no fun-gun,) to the range, trying to duplicate the results from the 44B. More often than not the other target rifle yields a tight group with a flier or two. Loading 7 rounds from the same box and the 44B yields a prettier group. Back to the other target rifle and 7 more from the same box, (last week the alternate rifle was a nice 44US(b),) and it’s five or six in the middle and one or two on the edge. It may be as simple as trigger-pull. The 44B has a heavier pull than any of my other target Mossberg’s. I’d been suffering under the illusion that lighter-is-better. Now I’m turning the screws clockwise.
This particular 44B doesn’t have a chrome-plated trigger or ball. The sales literature touts these features for ‘38 and ’39 so I have to assume mine was made in ‘40 or ’41. (When the Germans conquered Africa chromium was in short supply.) Given the British contracts for 42MB trainers 1940 seems a likely production date. If so, this 44B is 66 years old. Given the Depression, orders for military trainers and raw material shortages, it’s unlikely Mossberg turned out many examples of the 44B in 1940 or ‘41.
I finally got around to feeding some of the cheapest Federal through the 44B. That’s the upper page in the second photo. I think there were 4 fliers out of the 35 rounds, a couple of which were mental lapses. (Maybe all four.) With these modified paper targets and a 4X scope I can’t see where the bullet hole is if it’s in the black ring. That’s why I started pasting the little black/green dots that come on the Birchwood sheets over the bulls, as seen on the, “cheap stuff,” sheet in the same photo.
Some time ago I put together a report on the evolution of the 44US and Mossberg’s frantic development of the postwar a-through-d versions; introduced like clockwork from ’45-‘48. Somehow it never occurred to me the deluxe civilian target model might be even better than the mass-produced military trainers that followed.
If the War Department evaluated the 44B when they were shopping for a military trainer, it’s no wonder Mossberg got the contract. Mine obviously hasn’t suffered much in the past six decades. None of my later target rifles groups as tight as the 44B, yet. Santa just showed up early with a Lyman digital trigger gauge so I can measure the pull on the 44B and try to duplicate it on the others. The others group almost as well and the Champion ammunition is obviously consistent. They group more like the, “cheap stuff,” page, with tight groups except for the occasional, “oops”.
My self-improvement program decrees that once I get bored with super-human groups with bargain-basement ammunition, I should move the targets back a foot or two. (We all have our own definition of, “super-human.”) That may have to wait awhile. The range is about to enter that curious season known as the, “turkey shoot.” Target-shooting with shotguns? I don’t get it.
Christopher’s grandmother loaned me the family Mossberg, (46M(b)) to refurbish a couple months ago. Before I gave it back to her I thought I’d snap one of him with it. With any luck he’ll pass it along to a fourth generation. The kids might get a kick out of seeing him with it way back in 2006. We cleaned it one last time and gave back to Grammy an hour after this photo was taken.
Don’t feel too sorry for him. He has 3 lightweight Mossberg’s and lately he’s been showing off with Hal’s 44US(d).
I suspect Mossberg circa 2006 has a Corporate Mission Statement. In 1940 they’d just introduced the, “Perfection in Reflection,” slogan, appearing with the mirrored image of a 46M. Perfection was a pretty bold claim for a company known primarily for low prices. I don’t intend to define the perfect rifle but you’d think accuracy, durability and cost would be major factors. It’s hard to find fault with 66 year-old specimens that shoot half-inch groups with 98-cent ammo and retailed new for $16.45.
The Lyman digital gauge is a fascinating gizmo. The ten-pull average of the 44B read, “3 lbs; 0 oz.” We’ll see what happens when the rest of the arsenal is dialed-in to the same setting. Maybe nothing. There’s always one variable beyond my control; me.
If I’m a Mossberg snob it’s because shooting them is an end onto itself. Last week the newspaper had a feature article on the local Corvair club. Here’s a bunch of guys with 40 year-old passenger cars squealing around cones, hoping to go fast enough to undo the curse of Ralph Nader. Once you reach the pinnacle of Corvair racing, what’s next? Ford Mavericks? Javelins? I know for sure my slab-sided ’63 Lincoln isn’t a contender. I also understand there aren’t any trips to Camp Perry in my future, (unless NRA limits the competition to me and the Corvair owners.) Now, if they had a class where the shooter and rifle’s combined age had to be at least 120 years…